Wonder and fear? Have you ever felt these emotions because you have realised that a change is about to take place which you have no power over, perhaps you have had to change job or a loved one has died and you have had to move. Life has changed for most of us during the pandemic. We don’t know what life is going to be like in the future
Both those who witnessed the risen Christ and the healing of the lame man were filled with mixed emotions because they recognised that if what they were seeing was real it would change their lives and the world as they knew it.
I have never seen a ghost. I am not particularly sensitive to spiritual beings or atmospheres that cannot be seen. Those who tell me they have speak of a shade of a person, an insubstantial presence. Sometimes they desire to be rid of that presence and prayers are said so that it goes to where it should be and sometimes people live quite happily in houses they believe to be haunted, recognising that they are unlikely to be harmed; that whatever has been left behind hasn’t got the power to harm them.
When Jesus’ followers saw him he wasn’t a shadow of the person he had once been. It was “Jesus himself who stood among them”, not a ghost, not a vision. They were not having a dream or hallucinating. Jesus was real.
When he appeared to the 120 sceptical followers in the upper room, they had already heard of how he had appeared to Mary Magdalene and the women and Mr and possibly Mrs Cleophas on the road to Emmaus. Peter, their leader has confirmed that the tomb where Jesus was laid was empty yet they were still startled and terrified! I would be terrified too. Jesus, who had vanished after breaking bread with those he walked with on the Road to Emmaus had just come through locked doors. It is scientifically impossible for flesh and blood to rise from the dead, to emerge out of a sealed and guarded tomb and appear through closed doors.
We cannot explain it. We are being asked to believe it as historical fact seen by many witnesses.
Jesus behaves entirely in character and out of love for both this small group and the world he died to save. The traditional Jewish greeting, “Peace be with you.” is given by the Prince of peace who will bring everlasting peace to all people.
To allay their fears and doubts he gives an invitation: “Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
Then he asks for some broiled fish and eats it in their presence. Ghosts don’t eat do they?
Jesus suffered as we suffer. Though Jesus is risen and ascended, he still bares those scars. Jesus is able to heal and deliver us now but often we carry our scars into eternity. God uses and honours our scars to reach out to others.
To have a relationship with Jesus, we need to recognise the necessity of the cross. Nails were driven through Jesus’ hands and feet because the world and you and I need saving.
Jesus said “Everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.”
From Genesis where an animal is sacrificed to clothe Adam and Eve and cover their sin, through the Exodus and the Passover where an animal is sacrificed to redeem the first born, to the temple, sacrificial system we see the need for the shedding of blood and sacrifice for the remission of sins. Psalm 22 perfectly describes crucifixion and the suffering servant chapters of Isaiah describe the one sacrificed like a lamb so that we might be saved and healed. Jesus must have been with his friends for a long time. There was much to cover. Jesus showed them that his dying on the cross was always part of the plan of God to show us in a moment of time his eternal love.
These disciples had failed Jesus but he still sought them and wanted a relationship with them. However badly we fail, Jesus shows us through dying on the cross that there is always a way back, always a place for repentance and forgiveness
Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
We don’t proclaim this message without help. The Holy Spirit gives us the words to say as we rely on him in prayer. Jesus says “See, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
The 120 disciples in the upper room received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost fifty days later. Today Jesus is reaching out to all people everywhere and using us, his body, the Church here on earth.
In the Acts reading Peter and John have healed a man in the name of Jesus who had been lame from birth. Everyone recognised him because he begged at to the Beautiful Gate as people entered the temple and now he was walking and leaping and praising God.
The Jews thought they had put an end to Jesus healing when they had handed him over to be crucified but now his followers were behaving the same way he did.
Peter explained that in their own power they couldn’t make the man walk but in the power and name of Jesus who wasn’t dead as they thought but had risen from the dead and was alive, this man had been made strong and been given “perfect health”
It is not surprising the crowds were shocked and frightened. Peter didn’t hold back, “You are guilty; You have killed God, the author of life.”
They deserved the death sentence. They couldn’t expect to escape judgement over what they had done. However, Peter says, they didn’t know what they were doing. They therefore needed to repent, change their thinking about Jesus, turn around and follow him and be sorry for their sins. If they did, their sins would be wiped out and they would receive the Holy Spirit.
When we make a mess of things through our ignorance and sin God still loves us and reaches out to us through Jesus. When we turn from our sins we receive eternal life.
We are invited into our own relationship with Jesus, to experience his reality in our lives and share what God has done for us with a suffering, sinful, hostile world. Sadly, we sometimes resemble the terrified, startled disciples locked in the safety and security of their building
As we prepare to celebrate the out pouring of the Holy Spirit, let’s courageously do what he told us to do, and share his message wherever others will listen and allow us to pray with them so they may know Jesus is real too.